Class is Now in Session!
Trip Start Jun 24, 2010
66Trip End May 18, 2011
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We decided that our first set of classes would focus on where we were from and why we were here (“we’re your new friends, we’re here just to help you however we can”, which got lots of approving smiles). When we walked into each of our classrooms we were greeted with applause, with smiles of anticipation, and with looks of “hmmm, I wonder what these guys are gonna show us”. After Yoyo gave a brief introduction of who we were, it was time for us to jump out of the starting gate and begin the “purposeful” part of our adventure. We greeted all the kids with a big “ni hao” (hello), which was pretty much the extent of our use of Chinese words in the classes, and we told them how excited we were to be able to have the opportunity to come be with them and help them learn, and also how it would be really fun for us if they would help us learn a little more Chinese while we were here too! That got some encouraging responses from the “helpers” in the class.
Then out came the big world map where we explained the geographic separation between China and America and how long it took for us to get from there to here. We soon learned that when you talk about 12 hours of air travel to these kids, the only thing they can relate to is the 10-12 hours it takes on the train just to get from the school back to their hometowns………which are all still within the Jiangxi Province (I think the scale of miles is pretty well lost on them)! Then we had created a slide show on our laptop and showed them photos of our home state (with all the mountains, the snow, the rivers, the lakes, and the ocean with its beautiful sunsets), then onto our hometown (where we started with photos of our capitol building and where we work and then the downtown lakes area of Olympia), and then finally to our home (which we showed in a couple of different settings, both in the snow and then especially with all our trees). It was just funny as all get-out when we were going through the photos, as I would queue up a new picture and we would hear a cacophony of small voices politely uttering “WOW! Beautiful!” in amazement at our world! At one point we also asked them if they happened to notice anything familiar about the photos they just saw.
And it just wouldn’t be presenting a complete picture to them if we didn’t talk about the one member of our family who wasn’t able to come with us on this trip, so we asked if anyone had pets (which got a unilateral “no”) and then we showed photos of our dog George which got resounding rounds of “ohhhhhhh, he’s SOOO cute!!”.
We then included some stories and photos about Pleasant Glade, the kids’ school back home. We talked about the kinds of classes Benjamin and Lisha take, a typical day, including the bus and lunch, and, to everybody’s delight, a montage of photos showing the kids in action on the playground! We certainly discovered a lot about Chinese education when they then told us that their school day begins at about 7:30 in the morning and goes until about 5:00 or so, not counting any evening classes that older students may have, and the amount of time in the evening they’re expected to study (anywhere from 1-3 hours), and the most marked difference being how the time between classes is spent: they all go into the central courtyard where in an arrangement of semi-rigid lines they gather and await the loudspeakers to begin a combination of music and spoken cadence, which is their cue to begin roughly ten minutes of exercises. Not that there’s anything wrong with that………………………..
We then finished our first round of classes by giving each student a chance to practice their English by introducing themselves to us. Again, there was a huge variety, from those who boldly welcomed us to China and told us about where they were from, how many siblings they had and what they were studying in school, to those too shy to even look at us. They introduced themselves with their Chinese names, and we tried to say and remember the many names, but most were just too much for us. A few though (Lulu, Betty, Jane, Alice, Eric, Jenny and Michael) shared their English names, which made them much easier to remember……..thanks, kids!
But the biggest joy had to come when at the end of class they all joined pretty much in unison begging to have their photos taken with us (or ours with them……we’re not quite sure which……..;-) and them wanting our autographs on their English school books. We’ve mentioned before our occasional bliss of feeling like Rock Stars sometimes! And I guess there’s nothing wrong with that either……….;-). Anyhoo, the click of camera shutters and the raising in the air of cell phone cameras was a steady sight for about the last 15 minutes of each class! And we’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves! ;-)
And there you have it – a report from some admitted non-teachers about their teaching experiences deep in the heart of China. From the very start of our planning for this worldly venture we put “purposeful travel” at the helm of our desires and expectations. We have anxiously anticipated this very special segment of our Grand Adventure, always hoping for meaningful and worthy results and a positive reaction from the kids. And if this past week is any indication of the justification for our purpose in being here, then our mission can already be called a success! We are surrounded with smiles and enveloped with enthusiasm and are feeling pretty enriched by our role here at JCAS.
But there are more classes to be taught, and we’ve got to get to our next lesson plan! Our heightened respect goes out to ALL those teachers everywhere who do this stuff full-time and who don’t seem to get anywhere near the adulation they really deserve! THANKS, teachers!